Third cult member surrenders in sex abuse case

King 5 News, Seattle/December 1, 2005
By Chris Ingalls

Seattle -- A third and final suspect wanted by sheriff's detectives for allegedly sexually abusing a young member of an Eastside religious cult has surrendered.

As our reports over the past several weeks showed the case had gone cold for detectives trying to locate two cult members accused of molesting a boy.

Detectives believe the publicity pressured the secretive group to convince the accused to come forward and face justice.

Twenty-one-year-old Michael Muratore turned himself in Monday to face a child molestation charge.

Muratore is one of three young men in the Tridentine Latin Rite Church accused of molesting the now 13-year old boy.

Steve Belzak, 19, has already pleaded guilty to child molestation and 20 -year old Justin Kirkland faces a child rape charge.

King County detectives said Kirkland has been on the run for a year after they charged him with sexually assaulting a boy in the religious sect of which both were members.

All three suspects were raised in the church headed by Francis Schuckardt, condemned by the Catholic Church, and criticized as an abusive cult by many former members.

KING 5 News video from our original broadcast shows one family's effort to retrieve their elderly mother from the Tridentine Church, an attempt which ultimately failed.

National news programs like Dateline and The Today Show picked up the story including NBC's interview with Kathleen Raliegh, the woman kidnapped by her own family.

The woman in the video is still angry that her children would try to take her from her church.

“You saw it on TV, I was abducted,” Raleigh said. “They're not good children when they do something like that."

Detectives believe the reclusive church is reeling from the publicity and forced its accused members to come forward.

Kirkland's lawyer says he was in Nevada until 10 days ago.

Despite prosecutor’s objections, the judge released Kirkland on his own recognizance pending trial.

Micheal Muratore is also out of jail awaiting trial.

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